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The Leave (daringfireball.net)
120 points by dave1619 on Jan 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments



     Jobs’s leave of absence is cause for concern — and for good thoughts and well-wishes. It is not cause for panic.
Like any shareholder would say.


An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying senators' salaries should be increased, one could respond:

    Of course he would say that. He's a senator.
This wouldn't refute the author's argument, but it may at least be relevant to the case. It's still a very weak form of disagreement, though. If there's something wrong with the senator's argument, you should say what it is; and if there isn't, what difference does it make that he's a senator?

http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html


> I do not own a single share of Apple Inc.; nor do I own stock in any other individual company I might write about on Daring Fireball. I do not expect this to change, but I pledge that if it does, I’ll disclose it here. (http://daringfireball.net/2007/08/taking_stock)

I haven't seen him disclose anything about owning Apple stock since 2007. I wouldn't blame you for the assumption, but I don't think he's a shareholder.


I think Gruber's honest and sincere in his beliefs. But, even without shares in AAPL, his own business is rather tied to apple's well being. He's the huffington post for mac addicts.

I think Jobs has been engineering a healthy Apple that can withstand his absence for some time now. Still, I don't know many better showmen than Jobs in the tech sector.


Weird. Gruber's page sounds like www.apple.com/pr , or like Apple's Blog.

Maybe he only owns options? :D (j/k)


Gruber admits that Apple isn't the same without Jobs. The issues isn't whether Apple can persist in the short term without him — obviously, it can — and it will even continue making handsome profits well into the future.

The question is whether Apple can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him. That, I sincerely doubt.


Do you have a reason for doubting that? Steve Jobs has been an amazing leader for Apple but he's not an engineer. For example the iPod and iTunes came from external companies (PortalPlayer and SoundJam respectively).

I suspect Jobs' influence pushed them from great products to fantastic ones but that's a role the executive team should be able to fill at this point. Look at the numbers...

Tim Cook (COO): Been working with Steve Jobs since 1997

Jonathan Ive (VP of Industrial Design): Been working with Steve Jobs since 1996

Bertrand Sertlet (VP of Software Engineering): Been working with Steve Jobs since 1997.

Scott Forstall (VP of Software Design): Been working with Steve Jobs since 1997

That's the bottom line for me. After working with Jobs' for 13 or 14 years you have to assume some of the magic has rubbed off. So this is a fairly competent group that should be more than capable of creating great products.


Bertrand Serlet was already at NeXT. He designed Workspace Manager, so he must have been there since around 1988.

I think that makes Serlet one of Jobs's most long-term colleagues. His deep experience of software evolution processes may be one of Apple's most underestimated assets.

The NeXT platform has gone through seven different CPU architectures (by my count) and an enormous API merger with the Mac OS, yet shows no signs of getting bogged down. Most other companies can't seem to manage an operating system for even a decade before it loses its momentum under feature bloat and internal fighting over direction (c.f. Windows Vista, Symbian).

(edit -- I initially wrote that Serlet designed Interface Builder for NeXT, but that was another Frenchman, Jean-Marie Hullot.)


> Do you have a reason for doubting that? Steve Jobs has been an amazing leader for Apple but he's not an engineer.

And if people were flocking to Apple computers on the strength of their engineering, I'd agree with your point.

However, Apples' recent success has been because of its design sophistication which Jobs is rightly seen as the inspiration for.


At the time I got my MacBook 3rd gen in 2007, it was very good value (in terms of being well-engineered) for money. And it's still going strong, only had a memory and SSD upgrade since then. Particularly the battery is amazing, I still get 2-3 hours out of it.

I chose it over a ThinkPad at the time, which I considered roughly comparable, on account of the displayport. No other laptop in that price range had DVI out without an expensive dock.


The engineering sophistication is significant, but not in your face. Instead of cramming more electronics into the box, they work hard to reduce the parts count and increase battery life, among other things.

The engineering that went into the A4 is quite significant, but you wouldn't know it was there - except that the UI is very responsive, the unit runs cool, etc.

So you are right in a sense: people don't buy Apple products for the engineering - it's the design. But the engineering makes them not crappy. So they keep Apple products because of the engineering.


The chips in the iPod came from PortalPlayer, but Steve Jobs had a huge role in creating the UI, he spent a lot of time tweaking it. I don't think any of the above persons have the same ability to tweak a (hardware) product into something very usable and useful.

(If usability is making a product easy to use, 'useful-ability' should be making the product fulfilling customers wants/needs.)


fwiw, Phil Schiller was responsible for the scroll wheel on the iPod

http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/commentary/cultofmac/2006/1...

The idea for the scroll wheel was suggested by Apple's head of marketing, Phil Schiller, who in an early meeting said quite definitively, "The wheel is the right user interface for this product." Schiller also suggested that menus should scroll faster the longer the wheel is turned, a stroke of genius that distinguishes the iPod from the agony of competing players.


Absolutely right and the software came from a company called Pixo which was founded by an ex-Apple employee (the company was acquired by Apple shortly after the iPod shipped). While the interface was mocked up by a guy named Tim Wasko (who I believe is still at Apple)

Jobs' role is best described like this (from History of the iPod: http://lowendmac.com/orchard/05/origin-of-the-ipod.html#0)

Steve Jobs took a very active role in the project, scheduling frequent meetings with the directors from Fadell's group and PortalPlayer. During these meetings he would tell them in detail what issues he had with the device, whether it was the interface, sound quality, or the size of the scroll wheel.

This was rare for an Apple project at the time, and it reassured the leaders in the group that the project would not be axed immediately.

So while Jobs was absolutely involved and an influence he didn't "design the interface"


No, Jobs doesn't design anything. Although, he edits everything. And that part is as crucial as the design part.


In a large company there are few things designed by a single person. However, there are a number of things that Jobs has had a significant design role in: rounded corners on the Macintosh, the sunflower iMac, the glass staircases in Apple stores to name but three.



>"After working with Jobs' for 13 or 14 years you have to assume some of the magic has rubbed off."

Actually, I would assume that none of them are really cut out to be alpha dog. For Jobs it's been my way or the highway for close to 35 years (even if he was the one hitting the road at times). That's a personality type. None of them have a Pixar on their resumes.

If the future of Apple's success is depends on the transfer of magic between executives, antenna gate was a preview of the problems Apple faces. A deep bench is all well and good, but their can be only one successor.


Tim Cook is more than ready to be "alpha dog". The amount of money that he is getting is specifically to keep him at Apple and not be poached by some other company. Steve Jobs has instilled the culture and I don't see much of a problem, they seem really good at getting rid of people (even if they spent time / money to recruit) if they don't work out.


Cook has done a series of corporate gigs (including ironically employment at IBM in 1984). But there's no history of entrepreneurship - no Apple, Next, or Pixar. He's Prime Minister not an Emperor material.


Can you explain that analogy? Secondly, Apple is an established company, why does it need an entrepreneur at its helm?


Churchill defended Britain, Napoleon conquered all Europe. Apple can survive with Cook at the helm, but nobody will describe him as visionary and creative (even if he is). With Jobs gone, the press won't be afraid ask, "Ping? What were they thinking?"


I think you are right; the years immediately following Jobs' departure from Apple will be just fine.

Five or ten years after that though? When Jobs' influence and vision has faded a little bit, maybe some new blood has come on board, and maybe some of the guys there already have gotten more traction for ideas that would previously had been shut down by Jobs?

I'm not saying it'd be a disaster, just saying.. who knows what the admittedly brilliant senior vice-presidents would do if Jobs weren't there. I guess we'll find out sooner or later.

I sincerely hope that Jobs' vision and obsession has rubbed off, because whether you like Apple products or not, their influence in the tech industry is sorely needed.


The thing is saying no to alot of stuff. If the voice of the new CEO isn't as hard as Steve Jobs, Apple might say yes to often, and make some not-so-great stuff.


> The question is whether Apple can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him.

I think the question is more 'Will people BELIEVE they can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him?'. The confidence that Apple products will win out has helped drive their success and allowed them to popularise novel products like tablet computers where others could not hope to. Whether the confidence and the 'reality distortion field' will be retained without Jobs is what I see as in doubt. If they introduce another great new product - will they get the same rate of adoption?


Now now, who says they can come up with the next iPod or iPhone even with him?

What other worlds are left for Apple to conquer? Where else in your life can you possibly put an Apple product?

On top of your television? Maybe. The AppleTV is actually a damn good product, but it still hasn't gained much traction. Many folks still aren't quite sure what it does. Heck, I've used one and I'm still not quite sure what it does. I know what it won't do, though, and that's play my DVD collection.

Games consoles? I'm doubtful -- Apple's strength is in making better user interfaces than everyone else, but when you play a game you're at the mercy of the third party developer's interface. (And yes, they already failed at this once).


How about cloud-based services?

Apple has indicated their interest in this direction by plunking down a gigantic data center in North Carolina. And they have demonstrated their skills, judgement, and foresight at creating hosted services and platforms with iTunes and the App Store(s).

Worlds to conquer need not be new hardware segments.

If you posit that mobile devices are the end of the line of hardware innovation, then just imagine all the new software and connected intelligence that can be created for these devices.

I, for one, would welcome Jobs' continued contributions to the future of these technological domains. I really don't see a drop-in replacement for him.


Looking around the room at mass consumer electronics products which aren't Apple yet:

- Hifi

- Printers

- TVs (being done)

Looking at mass computer categories that aren't really done yet:

- Wearable computers

Granted they're not all likely, or even probable, expansion points for Apple. But if I can think of these in 2 minutes, I'm sure the crack team of product designers at Apple can think of a lot more (before culling most of them and picking the one most sexy option).


- Wearable computers

I suspect they are going there.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/18/tiktok-and-lunatik-ipod-n...


Hifi is iPod + AirPort Express. Apple tried to do speakers but found out they didn't have the competence for doing that. Besides, there is not much profit in selling speakers unless you are B&W. Amplifiers are an insignificant detail, somewhat like cables.

Even B&W has realized this: see all their iPod speaker products. As more and more teens become twenty-somethings with a wage, I expect this product line to grow to be a significant part of B&Ws revenue.

Young people (e.g. teens) don't use CD players. A CD player for them is like LP players: a historical artifact of old generations. Most radio channels today don't have good content, and the good stuff is available over the net. So no receiver either. The only source left for many young people is the computer/iPod/iPad/iPhone.

So Apple has the Hifi solved. They're just waiting for the old generation to get that CD players should be put into the trashbin like they did with the VCR player.


Except for people who are interested in actual hi fi, as in high fidelity -- people who wouldn't be caught dead listening to anything as lossily compressed as an mp3.

I'm no audio geek, but I can easily tell the difference between CD and mp3 for some of the music I listen to. I even have a CD of Beethoven's Ninth which I've never actually listened to because the audio equipment I have can't do it justice.


> I even have a CD of Beethoven's Ninth which I've never actually listened to because the audio equipment I have can't do it justice.

Because not listening to it at all gives you more pleasure than listening to it with the best equipment you've got?

I think you should consider the possibility that you may be an audio geek after all.


For hi fi, there is Apple Lossless (the reason my music is not on my portable/iPod but on a MacMini with an external harddrive).

Still no CD player: you let iTunes rip the CD using Apple Lossless.

Besides, you assume mp3's are 128 Kbits. When you get to 320 Kbit mp3s, most hi fi geeks can't make out the difference in blind tests. (they can always if the test isn't blind and they know which source is which – just like wine taste experiments).


Did you do a blind test? I cannot for the life of me tell the difference between 256 Kbit/s AAC and a CD in a blind test. (The best equipment I have are 150€ headphones, I tested with them. I did this test to decide whether I should start buying my music online instead of on CDs.)

Tests in which I knew what is what were completely worthless. I nearly always thought that I could tell the difference and that ability magically disappeared in blind tests.

I can tell the difference between 128 KBit/s MP3 and a CD, though.


I'm a bit of an audio geek. What sets me off though is not digital compression (although I'm sure you lose some fidelity, I rarely/never notice any loss with 256kbps mp4s). What is really awful is excessive dynamic compression in modern CDs themselves - and it's far worse than digital compression. Music simply loses its punch. It can be hard to do an apples to apples comparison here, but if you compare an older album (Beatles albums come to mind) and a "remastered" version, one of the differences will typically be greater dynamic compression in the remaster.

Some resources on the topic: http://www.turnmeup.org/ Some examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ http://mastering-media.blogspot.com/2008/09/metallica-death-...


I even have a CD of Beethoven's Ninth which I've never actually listened to because the audio equipment I have can't do it justice.

My advice: Spend $50-100 on a good pair of headphones, and you'll find more justice there than in hi-fi setups costing thousands of dollars.


Printers + Most sexy option made me think of a 3D store. Launch it on your ipad, pick a design, tailor it, have it printed on a good 3D printer and delivered at your home. Apple takes a cut (30-70 split of the margin that the developer set), but guarantees that the designs do not leak out.

Of course, this is 'some time' (20 years?) off, but I certainly would like to see such a store happen.


Hifi

Apple did have a shot at this with the iPod Hi-Fi. It was a speaker system with an iPod dock. It didn't do too well and it was canned in 2007, a year and a half after its introduction.


Good point about what the Apple TV won't do - if Apple would bite the bullet and have installed a Blu Ray + DVD player in the apple TV and sold it for twice as much, then I would have purchased that instead of the PS3 this past holiday season. There are reasons for that, and it seems Steve Jobs has issues with the Blu Ray format, not to mention a deep seated interest in promoting downloadable/streaming media.

That said, my gut tells me that Apple isn't done finding markets to zap with their Midas touch (with or without Jobs, but hopefully with Jobs).


I've been thinking the same thing lately. We've just barely entered this post-PC era and it seems like SmartPhones and tablets are going to be where its at for at least the next 10 years. 15? 20? I'm not sure there's another 'next big thing' waiting in the wings anytime soon.


People were saying the same things before the iPod came out. And then before the Iphone came out. And then before the iPad came out. I don't see where they might take it next, but I'm not going to bet against them.

At some point they'll fall into irrelevance like all big companies do, but I don't think that will be this year. With or without Jobs.


Maybe (read: very likely) that Apple TV on top of your television will become that game console reasonably soon.


I thought the hardware was way too underpowered for that sort of thing, hence the price. screens are expensive, but that wouldn't explain the > $300 price difference the apple tv and an iphone or ipad. now an apple tv 2...

edit: the ipod touch is only $229, but that's still $129 more than apple tv. anyone have more info about the possibilities of apps?


The current Apple TV contains the same cpu and graphics chip, and amount of memory as the iPad[1]

Given that the iPad has decent games performance at 1024x768, I could see the Apple TV handling most iPad games at 720p, or running them at a lower resolution and upscaling (as the consoles do with many games, for example Halo 3/ODST[2] and GTA IV[3]).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_TV#Technical_specificatio...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_3#Graphics

[3] http://www.ripten.com/2008/04/29/confirmed-gta-iv-ps3-is-not...


How about now? Did you see that you can play The Incident on TV via iPhone and iPad TV out?

http://www.ipodnn.com/articles/10/12/02/the.incident.uses.ip...


Man, if an App store comes to an Apple TV with any kind of decent input device that really would be a gold mine (complete with gold rush for devs).


This input device is, of course, your iPhone or iPod touch. The decent-ness of said device is questionable, however.

(But, it'd be perfect for Angry Birds TV!)


Touch controls would have to be pretty limited due to the lack of tactile feedback, but I could see some motion-based controls (though an ipod/iphone is a pretty expensive gadget to be swinging around).


Apple should go for solutions in the automotive realm, personal transportation and the like.


The question is whether Apple can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him. That, I sincerely doubt.

The question is whether Jonathan Ives can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him. That's by no means a certainty, but I don't think it's as doubt-worthy as your statement.

I mean, the guy looks really freaky on promotional videos. Who knows what he could come up with?

(But seriously... Jobs has assembled a top team and put in place the right kind of company dynamic. It may not last for 50 years. It may not even last for 20 years. But it will probably last for 10 years.)


> The question is whether Apple can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him. That, I sincerely doubt.

Apple has now a very strong and experienced executive team and great engineers, who perfomed very well during Job's last leave. Most of all they have a clear product strategy and incredibly streamlined processes in R&D, retail and logistics which enables them to stay very focused. So I believe they will continue to innovate. Apple today is nothing like Apple in the 90's when they were near bankruptcy and without a vision until Jobs came back.


In that vein, "CURSE YOU PERFORMA 600!!!!!!!!!!!"


The question is whether Apple can come up with the next ipod or iphone without him. That, I sincerely doubt.

Of course Apple can come up with the next iPod or iPhone. They can even design good ones. Steve Jobs is a fantastic CEO with a well-trained eye for simplicity. The only thing that might be missing in his absence is someone that will relentlessly say "no" to sub-par designs.


More important than the holiday, though, is that Apple announces its quarterly results tomorrow, and they’re expected to be excellent. Some smart analysts are expecting Apple’s actual revenue to beat the consensus estimates by $2 billion.

So what we're saying is that analysts expect the results to be better than analysts expect the results to be?

What if it turns out that the results aren't quite as good as expected? Or that they're better than expected but not as much better than expected as is apparently now expected? What'll that do to the share price?

I should put in some buy orders at $200 just in case...


Oh, give me a break. You don't have to be an Apple fanboi to understand the difference between "some smart analysts" and "the consensus." He's saying most analysts predict X, while a few (smart ones, apparently) predict X + $2 billion.

If you think he (or the "smart analysts") are wildly optimistic, fine. No need to beat up on strawmen; simple skepticism will suffice.


Presumably there are some also-smart analysts who are predicting X - $2 billion, then?

All I'm saying is that we should also be prepared for the possibility that the earnings report is less, rather than more, than expected. If it were not so, then they wouldn't be very sensible expectations.


The early indicators that I'm seeing from iOS app developers suggests otherwise. "Best Christmas Ever" is not an uncommon descriptor, suggesting major iPod touch purchases, plus.

I know at work we've been seeing a lot more formerly Windows-only households adding Macs this past quarter.


There is a process by which analyst make their official predictions. I'm not an expert in that process but I know enough to say it assumes the mean value between the best the company could have done and the worst.

So if the company manages to do the best it could have done it will beat the official estimates (And it's not at all illogical for an analyst to expect a company to do that even when their official analysis assumes an average)


Another American ignoring the rest of the world: no need to speculate how the news will affect the stock price after the US holiday ends when you can just look how Apple performed in European markets, which were open during the time of the announcement (and reacted immediately with a 7% drop).

Sorry for the rant, but this is the second time I see something like this today, and it pisses me off to no end.


Other markets have nowhere near the liquidity of the market where AAPL shares are actually bought and sold. If you think the US market will wind up where the european one did then go ahead and make that trade.

The opinion of the market will change as time goes on and people process the information available and more information becomes available.

I don't think its fair to say "another American ignoring the rest of the world" when his whole point is that what matters is how apple does on the NASDAQ after the earnings announcements. In this case, how Apple stock traded in european markets over the holiday really is irrelevant to AAPL. It's nothing personal.


Wow, your comment made mine go from +7 to +1.

Trading on Xetra was quite active yesterday, but certainly less than a typical Nasdaq day. You should not discount that price movement as irrelevant.

And Gruber's point on earnings releases was a separate one, IMO.


Wow, your comment made mine go from +7 to +1.

Ha. Sorry about that! I usually only downvote things that are materially wrong or offensive but I know lots of people use it as a vote to say they disagree. Your comment also had a sort of "typical American" derogatory feel to it which you can only get away with until someone points it out. Most people reading HN are probably Americans you know. ;-)

As for the price movement, it is relevant only in that it is exactly the sort of knee-jerk reaction that Apple was avoiding by announcing on a holiday weekend. The movement we see when the market opens will be different given that people have had time to absorb the news, even without the earnings announcement.


It WAS supposed to be a rant.

And sure, the price movement was a "knee-jerk" reaction, and the price on US open will likely move higher - or lower. An instant drop followed by a flat market pretty much is a textbook example of the stock market reacting to unexpected events, though.


Maybe: "Don't rant about ignorant Americans to Americans unless you're willing to burn karma"? I guess they're all asleep now so you can get away with it. But this one is in Tokyo!

The German market just opened and Apple is now going up:

http://www.boerse-frankfurt.de/EN/index.aspx?pageID=35&I...


Xetra stars and whatnot have pretty decent trading volumes, esp on news.


Why do people read this drivel? Its Corporate PR in the form of a blog.

The collective "fuck" that he felt had nothing to do with steve job's health and everything to do with hoping there is an iPad mini unveiled at the next keynote.

While he idolizes steve jobs, it is apple that brings him his beloved products, so he is hoping that one of his Kowtow yes-men will be able to step up and be the narcissistic "rock-star" and keep delivering updates of his overpriced yuppie toys.


Not a particularly detailed article over at Slate posed the question as to whether details of Jobs' health should be disclosed as "material" to stockholders under the spirit (though not the letter) of SEC laws.

I don't really know, so, discuss...

[http://www.slate.com/id/2281452/ - as I said, not that detailed so I didn't submit it separately]


More important than the holiday, though, is that Apple announces its quarterly results tomorrow, and they’re expected to be excellent.

I've seen this guy write some pretty stupid things, but this takes the cake.


What's stupid about it? Or are we just slinging mud because we're an ad agency and that's what any respectable ad agency does?


First of all, I have no clue where that knee-jerk response came from.

Secondly, I cannot believe that Gruber would state that Apples quarterly report has more importance than a day that remembers a remarkable man. I think Martin Luther King JR day is pretty damn important one. But that`s just me, and my opinion.


I don't think he meant more important than the holiday itself, but more important than the fact that the markets are closed today, with respect to how Apple's stock price fares.


I suppose, reading into the larger context of the article, that would make sense. Cheers for the clarification.


No--you're misreading him. When he says 'more important than the holiday' he's talking about things that impact Apple's stock price:

"The announcement of his leave was perfectly timed: on a weekday, but a holiday on which the U.S. stock market is closed

More important than the holiday, though, is that Apple announces its quarterly results tomorrow, and they’re expected to be excellent"

See, "more important than the holiday" is referencing Apple's strategy of announcing Jobs' leave on MLK day. Gruber is comparing two things that affect Apple's stock price--announcing on MLK day to avoid a panic, and announcing a day before Apple's Quarterly earnings report, and concluding that the latter tactic is more significant.


More important than the fact that the announcement was made on the holiday...

Is clearly what is implied there.




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